Featured Composer: Stefan Cassomenos
Melbourne pianist and composer Stefan Cassomenos is one of Australia’s most vibrant and versatile musicians. Stefan has performed internationally since the age of 10, and performed the premiere of his own composition Piano Concerto No 1: Aegean Odyssey with the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra at the age of 16. More recently, he has performed concertos with the Beethoven Orchestra Bonn, Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, Queensland Symphony Orchestra, and Orchestra Victoria. Stefan now gives regular solo recitals and concerto performances throughout Australia, Europe, and Asia, having appeared as a soloist in St Petersburg, Tallinn, Warsaw, Krakow, Bonn, Athens, Rome, Milan, Amsterdam, London, Bangkok, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Tokyo. Performances in 2014–15 include recitals in Zurich (Tonhalle), Leipzig (Gewandhaus), Bonn, Weimar, Ludwigshafen, Kirchheimbolanden, Malta, London and throughout the UK, and concertos with the Malta Philharmonic Orchestra, Melbourne Chamber Orchestra, Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Orchestra, and Corpus Medicorum.
In 2013, he was a grand finalist and recipient of the Second Grand Prize in the prestigious International Telekom Beethoven Piano Competition Bonn, in Germany. He was also the recipient of the Chamber Music Prize. In 2012, he was a grand finalist in the Rhodes International Piano Competition. He has also been a grand finalist and prize-winner in the 2013 Lev Vlassenko Piano Competition, the 2013 ABC Symphony Australia Young Performer Awards, the 2009 Melbourne Asia-Pacific Chamber Music Competition, and the 2009 Trieste International Chamber Music Competition.
Cassomenos began writing music at age seven, and as a teenager had his music performed by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. His Piano Concerto No 3 was premiered in 2010 at the Melbourne Recital Centre, and his critically acclaimed Double Violin Concerto (2012) has been performed around Australia by three different ensembles, with violin soloists Monica Curro and Sarah Curro. Hieratikon (2012) was commissioned and performed by the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir on their 2012 ‘Icons’ Victoria Tour. Awards and accolades for composition include Composer-in-Residence for three years running at the Creative Innovation Conference 2010–12, the 2012 Lyrebird Music Society commission, the 2012 Young Achievement Award from the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, and various awards through the Yamaha Music Foundation. He is currently completing compositions for Plexus, Corpus Medicorum, and Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir. He has recently been invited as the first Australian composer to be commissioned as part of “250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven”, an international composition project initiated by German pianist Susanne Kessel marking Beethoven’s 250th anniversary in 2020, culminating in a world premiere season in Bonn and Hamburg, and publishing through Editions Musica Ferrum.
Stefan is generously supported by Kawai Australia and by the Youth Music Foundation of Australia.
Requiem for the End of Time was premiered by PLEXUS together with guest artists Liane Keegan, Deborah Cheetham, Daniel Carison, Michelle Wood, Damien Eckersley, and the Royal Melbourne Philharmonic Choir, in PLEXUS SQUARED: Revelations on Tuesday 11th August 2015 at Deakin Edge, Federation Square.
Requiem for the End of Time (2015)
“Requiem for the End of Time” is a setting of the Latin text of the requiem mass, which is a Christian service to commemorate a recent death. Several composers throughout the centuries have composed music to this text, most notably Mozart, Verdi, Faure, Brahms, and Britten, amongst many others.
My piece features the choir and female soloists delivering the requiem text, alongside the bass-baritone delivering several passages from the Book of Revelation, the final book in the New Testament of the Bible, which is attributed to a Christian prophet who lived at the end of the 1st Century AD, on the Greek island of Patmos. His name was Yiannis, or John.
John was inspired to write down his visions, which he believed he was receiving directly from God. John’s visions begin with God, seated on a throne, with 24 elders seated all around him wearing crowns of gold. According to John, there are four winged beasts – a lion, a calf, a man, and a flying eagle. There is a book sealed with seven seals, a Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, and there are seven angels with seven trumpets, who sound a series of vivid catastrophes, including thunder, lightning, earthquakes, hail and fire mingled with blood, burning mountains of fire collapsing into the sea, burning stars falling from the skies, and the opening of a bottomless pit yielding deadly warlike locusts who are let loose to torture those people who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads. As the seven angels sound, a third of the human race is exterminated. Those who are not found written in the book of life are cast into the lake of fire. The sounding of the final angel marks the end of the mystery of God, and the point at which “there should be time no longer”.
My intention, through the lens of these two key Christian texts, is to shine some light on the world’s most widely-held religion.
The choir and two female soloists are intended to embody the angels from the Book of Revelation. Their music gives rise to the end of time.
The bass-baritone embodies John of Patmos, and the character of his music is intended to convey what must have been a confrontingly surreal revelatory experience.
The result is a work in four continuous musical movements.
Three Australian Songs was premiered in PLEXUS: Brunswick Beethoven Festival on 9 February 2017 at Brunswick Uniting Church.
Three Australian Songs (2017)
I. Transcendental Mermaid
II. Women’s Business
III. The Summit
These three songs are settings of three of my favourite poems by my dear friend Weston Bate.